Joe Bonamassa was absolutely electrifying last night at the Royal Albert Hall. I have to say, having seen him more than a dozen times over the years, I’ve never seen him more relaxed, more at ease, or more in tune with his audience. And the packed crowd responded, giving his solos a standing ovation and fully engaging with him.

As Bonamassa pointed out at one point, it was his 11th time playing RAH and he certainly seemed to have developed a real love affair for the old place and in return he seemed very much in love. ease – familiarity breeding content.

Last night, the group was right on target but very much behind. Josh Smith on rhythm guitar, Reese Wynans on keyboards, Steve Mackey on bass, Greg Morrow on drums and with two backing vocals, Jade Macrae & Dani De Andreas – all stellar performers in their own right but completely in tune with the man with guitar and costume.

He played a long set – over 2 hours non-stop – and it included material from all parts of his long career. It was definitely a night for Blues/Rock and in many ways it felt like a good old fashioned rock show, there were no horns or strings, just Reese Wynans keyboards and occasional backing vocals and all attention on Bonamassa.

Opening with ‘Evil Mama’ and on ‘Dust Bowl’, his guitar work was electrifying, long but not excessive solos, perfectly paced and pointing towards the night’s path. There were many highlights. A brilliant version of ‘Sloe Gin’, tender and moving, and a beautiful cut of ‘Midnight Blues’ by Gary Moore. The most modern material was covered with a hot screening of “I Didn’t Think She Would” and “A Conversation with Alice”.
The set ended with “Ballad Of John Henry”, all massive riffing and powerful playing, Reese Wynans Hammond’s big solo and mushrooms on the ceiling swaying slightly with its power.
Of course there were some encores and he started with an acoustic version of ‘Woke Up Dreaming’ and showed he was as versatile on acoustic guitar as he was on electric guitar. At one point he sounded like Al Di Meola, then flamenco, then shred, all on Gibson acoustics.
Finally, we had a stunning ‘Mountain Time’, his plaintive voice, the guitar echoing his pleas. Absolutely a “hair on the nape” moment and the audience completely pierced.

And that was it, the band formed the line and ran away and suddenly Bonamassa claps the hands of the audience, hands out picks and even setlists, completely in tune with his audience, definitely something to be memory.

There have been many special nights with Joe Bonamassa, but last night was one of the most special and a performance that will be etched in my memories for quite a while to come.

Photo by Laurence Harvey